Joyland

a hub for short fiction

Everyone I Know

Called my ex on the phone and said how about now. They said not so sure bout it, I know we’ve talked about things in the past but I’m in a strange place right now and it would be weird I think. Called everyone I know on the phone said I don’t want to be like whatever but I have a bad feeling right now. They said I’m twenty-two, across the seas, don’t speak the language, this country’s gonna break into war any second, I haven’t spoken to my parents in eight months and all I can think is how exciting it’ll be when the soldiers start pouring out the tunnels along the border. They said I’m nineteen, the like fifth guy in a row told me he won’t seriously consider someone as young as me as a boyfriend, I’m gonna have to wait like five years to be able to really date anyone I like. They said I just opened my mouth a little and released some tainted air. I’ve studied them, and I can’t make out my eyes. A girl’s across the aisle from me. They said I’m twenty-eight and I’ve already given up on so much, I’m basically done with life, I don’t do school anymore I’m just waiting to die. They said I’m twenty-two and I’m not doing so well, I’m undergoing heartbreak and my dad’s dying. He’s an alcoholic and has cirrhosis. He’s a really brilliant artist but I spent the last four years not speaking to him because of how he treated me when I was younger, and now we go on long hikes together on weekends. We don’t say much but we take a shot of schnapps at the start and by the end when we look at each other it’s really nice. They said sometimes it’s just like, blip, and it’s normal again. I like that feeling of feeling sane. They said I really, I mean really hate my job. They said I know no time will come when I have perfect understanding, but I want it. I want to feel like I’m doing the right thing. It’s important to me to feel like that. I know that’s sentimental and irrational, according to how you think. They said I’m thirty-one and stuck with my research, I want to just open a bakery. I think I’d be good at a simple life. I mentioned this to Mia the other day and she said it’s a nice fantasy but she could never not be an academic. But she was raised in that environment, her parents were both psychiatrists. I was raised very differently, my dad was a fruit-seller. They said I’m twenty-nine and now I find these parties I’ve been throwing for six years that started out as just a “fun thing” one summer have somehow become like my “main thing,” and I don’t know if I like that. They said I’m twenty and I’m in the first real relationship of my life. They said I just didn’t know. If I’d known then, I’d feel less stupid now. I know that sounds stupid too. I feel stupid. I feel like I always feel stupid. I look at other people. They said I’m twenty-five and I have a ghost in my house! In my new room on the island! I’m not kidding. I don’t even believe in ghosts but like cold drafts, whisperings from under the bed, distinct footsteps, feelings of pure irrational terror! They said sometimes it feels like I’m always in pain, but I know that’s not true. They said I just got off a plane, waiting for a taxi. I realize the irony of this. They said I’m twenty-five and I just got out of ten hours in the studio where all I could think was give up. They said I’m thirty years old and I’ve completely fucking wasted the last decade. I tried to do pre-med, dropped out, tried to do philosophy, dropped out, tried to save up and go to India, couldn’t do it. Tried to kick this ridiculous, stupid, embarrassing addiction to alcohol about a hundred fucking times, and couldn’t do it. Gotten kicked out of more apartments than I can remember, owe more money to more people than I even know. I’ve had entire frigging relationships where it was a hundred percent based on having sex with a guy for a place to sleep at night. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. They said I was just reading a suicide note I wrote when I was sixteen that mentions you. They said I’m sixteen and I have nowhere to go. I sure as shit am not staying with my mom, and I can’t afford to get my own place. And I don’t even know anyone else here and no one knows me even though I’ve lived here my whole life. My friends keep changing. One year I’m friends with like one group and we’re like so tight but the next year I see them on the street and it’s just like head-nods on the sidewalk with someone I showed myself to, someone I went to parties with. They said, to be honest, I’m not sure about who I am as a person, not sure if I’m worthwhile, if I deserve to be here, or anywhere. I don’t mean “deserve” exactly. They said I don’t know if I like being so far from my family. They said not sure if I have a drinking problem and maybe I have an STD, and I haven’t spoken to my parents in four months. They said I’ll be thirty in six weeks, I’m still in Toronto, I’ve been working in restaurants since I was twenty-two and thought I would have moved to Europe by now, thought I was gonna move to New York, had this scholarship, I stayed for my boyfriend, thought we were gonna get married, have kids, he knew I wanted that from like the first year we were going out, and I stayed for him, and then he’s just playing video games in the living room not talking to me—on the outside he’s such a nice guy but then he’s like “not sure how he feels”? I was like I’m too old for this shit, I not gonna stand in the hall another fifteen minutes while you stand there looking at me. Your behaviour has been abusive and manipulative and if you don’t leave right now I’ll call you a fucking cab. Now everyone hates me for breaking up with him and all he had to do was act like he loved me. And where would I go anyway?

 

I said, If you don't go now when would you go? You gonna be here forever?

 

They said, I know, you’re right, I just can’t really think right now or talk. Can I call you back?